Cricket in Scotland has long been an alienated sport to many. Is it finally gaining the appreciation it deserves?
Scotland’s recent success at the T20 World Cup in the UAE and Oman has brought a new wave of attention to the sport of cricket in Scotland. The national team bagged a major victory against Bangladesh - ranked 9th in the world - and qualified for the Super 12 round for the first time. This placed Scotland in a group with some of the world’s most prolific teams: India, Pakistan and New Zealand. Gus Mackay, CEO of Cricket Scotland, stated that “Making the Super 12 of the T20 World Cup is massive for the development of the game in Scotland. A national Team doing well on the World stage engages a whole nation, especially in Scotland where other sports dominate”. Yet, despite Scotland making a name for itself on the world stage, closer to home the game is still very much an alienated sport to many and suffers from a major image problem.
Cricket has been played in Scotland for hundreds of years and Glasgow specifically has a rich history with the game. Clydesdale Cricket Club was founded in 1848 and plenty more clubs have a thriving membership leading to a healthy recreational league. However, the culture of cricketing in Glasgow still has a somewhat underground feel. It’s not uncommon for members of cricket clubs to face derision from their compatriots for their preference in sports, and anyone who has played cricket in Glasgow will have experienced heckling from passers-by or the beeping of a car that is driving past the ground. It’s no wonder that those in Glasgow who love the game choose to keep rather quiet. But why do so many people have a negative view of the sport? Most people will simply tell you that Cricket is too boring. This argument could hold some weight, test match cricket, the traditional form of the sport, can be a slog. However, any fan of the game will tell you that there are new, more exciting forms of the game played over one day, such as T20. These as a form of sport, are far more accessible to beginners and constitute the bulk of recreational cricket. Scotland’s focus on these shorter formats of the game could be effective in attracting more interest to the sport. Also, to many, the slower pace of the game is a positive element; it is not uncommon to see people aged 60+ on the same pitch as 18-year-olds, something that would never be possible in sports such as football or rugby.
"However, the culture of cricketing in Glasgow still has a somewhat underground feel."
Another issue faced by the game is that to many in Glasgow, cricket is still seen as the reserve of the English upper class, a bourgeois sport spread around the world by colonialism, a relic of the past. This view may explain why the sport does not receive widespread media coverage or benefit from as much support from the government as football or rugby. This issue can be further seen in the fact that the game is more commonly played in private schools than state schools, a problem that also exists south of the border. Schemes to increase cricket’s prominence in state schools could help change the image of the game going forward. Mackay further stated that “While the progress is good news for the national team, it will also allow us to increase our work in developing the game in Scotland through the many initiatives already being run by our Development Team in diverse communities around the country.”
Throughout all this there is one group of Glaswegians who serve as the staunchest fans and promoters of the game. That is the city’s South Asian community. When it comes to cricket, Indians, Pakistanis, Bengalis and Afghans are not afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves. The India-Pakistan rivalry is the biggest in the world, yet on derby day the atmosphere is remarkably jovial, a world away from the old firm, fans of both sides will be seen celebrating and dancing together and always create an enviable and electric atmosphere whether their team wins or loses. Perhaps this is the jubilant image of cricket that needs to be shown to the rest of Scotland, we should use the South Asian communities love of the game as proof that Cricket is an exciting and passionate sport. This is a game that can hopefully look forward to a bright future in Scotland, positioning itself as an open, forward thinking and diverse nation.
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